Urban Land Institute CEO praises Steamboat's public amenities

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— The CEO of the Urban Land Institute surprised a local audience this week by drawing a comparison between the strong points of Washington, D.C., and Steamboat Springs.

“Washington, D.C., proper is doing a lot of things right as a city to attract well-educated young people," Patrick L. Phillips said Thursday. “Steamboat, despite its size, has similar potential.”

The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit with global reach that acts as an open exchange for the sharing of ideas and trends among real estate industry leaders and policy makers. But it’s less about selling real estate than keeping ahead of trends in order to create better places to live, according to an Urban Land Institute mission statement.

The Urban Land Institute has been active in Steamboat this summer as a team of experts from the Denver chapter work with community leaders to develop an action plan for reinvigorating Yampa Street. However, Phillips is in town with his family to enjoy their second home at Howelsen Place.

He spoke during the final Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association economic seminar of the season. Phillips said that Steamboat — already identified as a place that baby boomers aspire to retire in — has the potential to tap into an even larger generation of people in their teens to early 30s, known as millennials, if it can diversify its economy and offer sufficient intellectual stimulation.

Globally, millennials, who number 78 million, are increasingly attracted to urban environments, Phillips said. And if they aren’t living with their parents in 2012, they are more apt to rent than to own. However, they still aspire to traditional single-family housing over the long run.

While the arrival of baby boomers at the prime second home-buying age of 55 has been touted for 15 years as the most significant driver for real estate purchases in mountain resort towns, a 2011 book published by the Urban Land Institute makes it plain that boomers as a group will be challenged to achieve their ultimate retirement lifestyle.

The next generation of senior citizens will be the fastest growing age group in the country, and many will be cash-strapped and less likely to leave hard-to-sell homes for retirement destinations, the Urban Land Institute observes in “What next? Real Estate in the New Economy.”

Millennials, Phillips said, are in a phase of life where they are trying to figure out where they can find meaningful careers and the lifestyle they prefer. He added that when he first came to Steamboat looking for the right second home community, he was surprised to find national brands that he recognized — Moots, SmartWool, Eriksen Cycles and Big Agnes — are headquartered here.

Beyond economic diversification to boost employment, Phillips identified five imperatives Steamboat and Routt County must attend to if the community is to attract millennials as well as investment capital.

First, continue to invest in amenities, Philips urged. He said he was impressed with what Steamboat has achieved in terms of relatively cost-efficient investments in amenities that have a “huge impact.”

Second, he recommended paying attention to the growing global trend toward using technology, particularly mobile devices, as a tool to achieve more efficient delivery of resources, including managing heating and cooling systems in larger buildings.

Routt County has great potential, Phillips said, to meet the goal of accommodating diversity in terms of housing options.

“The beauty of Steamboat is there are all of these emerging markets that can be served by housing,” he said.

Phillips also said Steamboat should accommodate diversity in all ways.

It’s important that the local community continue to nurture a relationship based on mutual confidence between the public and private sector.

The strongest communities in the post recession era are those that had the strongest community institutions before the recession, Phillips said. That translates into Routt County and Steamboat continuing to pay attention to community institutions in the areas of education, culture and health care, he concluded.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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